The Motor on the British Farm.
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By Albert Wyles.
The English farmer has for some years past, on the whole, shown appreciation of the value of petrol and paraffin engines tor driving various classes of farm machinery, such as those used for thrashing, chaffcutting, root-pulping, etc. But, until quite recently, he has not invested to any considerable extent in mechanical ploughing outfits.
Is the Farmer Unreasonably Conservative ?
It is a commonplace that the English farmer is behind the times, that he does not appreciate new and improved methods of agriculture. Statements of this kind are so frequently made, that they are as a rule accepted without question or hesitancy. After a considerable amount of experience amongst agriculturists, the writer is of opinion, however, that they are in effect far from correct. There are undoubtedly reasons, and good reasons, too, why the English farmer is slow to change.
Srix or eight years ago, there existed, of course, a very sceptical attitude towards the use of motors for farm work of any kind, and notably for tillage work. And there was a reason for such doubting. They were early days in so far as the use of that class of machinery was concerned. But during recent years the farmer's attitude on the whole has undergone a veal. change. The progress which has to be recorded in actual experiment in no way reflects on the ability and perseverance of the pioneers in the agriculturalmotor industry. The results obtained until comparatively recent days were sufficient excuse for the scepticism of the average farmer.
Difficult Conditions to Meet.
To anyone who has a practical knowledge of agricultural conditions, it is easy to realize the difficulty of satisfying all the various needs of the farm under the constantly-varying conditions of land and
weather. Until these things were fully met, the writer feels that, however praiseworthy the attempts of engineers and others had been, and however satisfactory the mechanical working of the earlier modals had proved, the farmer was justified in remaining unconvinced of the advantages of investing in further mechanical plant of this kind for use on hjs land. We may perhaps put it in another way. From the point of view of an engineer, several of the earlier machines have proved to be entirely satisfactory, but the farmer, with his hardly-won experience, and his wealth of rule-of-thumb knowledge, with very feW exceptions let it be known that he considered that all these machines were more or less ill adapted to the varied conditions of the land in this country.
When it is considered that the largest and most expensive models of ploughing equipment, after doing satisfactory work for several months, may be completely kept off the land for the remainder of the year, owing to wet weather and the impossibility of using them under such conditions on account of their great weight, it will be readily seen how much the success of a motor ploughing and cultivating outfit depends even more on its adaptability to meet meteorological and similar conditions than it does upon what are purely constructional features.
The Designer Must Know Something of Fat ming.
The probTern of designing a suitable form of motor has often been tackled by men of great engineering ability, but I fear that experts of this kind have too often lacked knowledge of the actual needs of the farmer. They have little sympathy with, and insight into, the problems of the man who makes a living out of the land. As a matter of fact, the reqiiirements of the farmer are indeed very difficult to meet, as they al0
are little understood by those whose business is not of an agricultural nature. Unless a really serious attempt be made to study _them, and unless experience be gained at first hand by years of actual work on the land, no engineer can expect to satisfy the farmer himself, who is, after all, the prospective buyer.
The Essential Requirements.
Among the most essential features requiring attention by the English farmer when considering the possibility of employing motor plant for his ploughing and other operations are those which follow. A machine capable of working under very varied conditions of weather and land, and capable of doing all forms of tillage work, is a necessity to the average English farmer. It is quite obvious that it would be bad policy for a farmer to purchase a motor if it were not thoroughly adaptable to all purposes.
The Resistance to Ploughing.
First of all he must have a machine of sufficient power, and it may, in this respect, be interesting to give the figures upon which the writer himself relics in designing his motor ploughs. It, will be readily understood that the resistance offered by the soil varies to a large extent, being as low as 7 lb. per sq. in. on sectional area of cut in the ease of sandy soils, or as high as 12 lb. per sq. in. in the case of still clays when hard baked by the sun. This latter figure will rarely be existent in England, although it may be in certain countries abroad.
Supposing it be required to plough one furrow 7 ins. by 9 ins., which is the standard furrow slice as laid down by our leading agricultural authorities. This represents a cut of 63 sq. ms., and in average soil, with a resistance of 10 lb. per sq. in., it will be seen that we require a net tractive effort of 630 lb. per furrow. Now, the tractive effort of one horse varies front 180 lb. to 220 lb., so that to plough this furrow three horses would obviously be required. Two horses will plough a smaller furrow in soil in which the resistance is not more than 7 lb. per sq. in. As the term bp., of course, represents 33,000 foot pounds per minute, a very simple calculation shows that the net lap. required in the stiffer soil would be 3.4 b.h.p.
When Working on Soft Land.
Other conditions affect the result, one of the greatest of which, in the case of heavy machines, is the resistance due to moving the machine. over soft ground. This is usually spoken of as rolling resistance, and may be as high under adverse weather conditions as 400 lb. per ton. In other words, two-thirds as much power may be required to move one ton about the ground as to plough one furrow. This is, of course, borne out in practice, and is the experience of every faimer using horses.
—and on Gradient..
One must also consider the effects of gradients. This, contrary to popular ideas, is small in the ease of ploughs. When ploughing rip hill, the soil is not moved uphill, but simply placed to one side. The soil is only moved uphill when ploughing across a. hillside, and then only for alternating furrows. The only additional effort required on a gradient is the power required to raise the machine itself, or, in the case of horses, to raise the plough and the horses themselves.
The Weight must be Light.
The next condition which it is necessary to fulfil is that the plant must be of light weight. There are two very serious objections to the use of heavy machines from a farmer's point of view. First there is the effect upon the land if clay soil be subjected to pressure when 'Wet ; the effect is noticeable fur more than one season. This is true even if the ground he ploughed immediately, as it is impossible to separate the. fine clay, which has been made to adhere like a stiff paste. The effect may he. minimized by using very large and broad wheels, het it cannot be entirely avoided. The second objection to heavy eveight is the increased fuel coneuniption, with the consequent wear and tear, and the initial cost, .owing to the larger engine required. A consideration of the figures which I have already set clown above will show clearly the enormous waste of power that is due to the transporting of heavy weights over soft ground.
The Small Fields of England.
Then again, in England, one has to consider the necessity of providing plant which will be particularly suitable for the small fields of England. The difficulty of turning on a small headland is well known, and the ability to " split " open the first furrow without " ridging," and to " close" the last Inrrow without " casting " is a great advantage.
Cost of operation, of course, enters into the whole, problem in no uncertain manner. The up-to-date farmer has to keep a watchful eye on production cost, just as surely as does the modern constructional engineer, and all comparisons so far show the undoubted superiority of mechanical ploughleg as compared with that carried out by horses.
Ease of Control a Necessity.
Amongst other stipulations which the farmer will undoubtedly make, and, as a mat ter of fact, always does make, is that the machine shall be as easy to control as possible. Because it is not always feasible to obtain anything in the nature of skilled labour, there MUSE be no doubt as to the possibility of the machine's running with absolute reliability, in spite of the fact that itmay receive only the roughest of treatment, and may, indeed, be almost neglected and left to the effect of bad weather in open fields when not working.
Finally, it has to be remembered that there are probably no users of machinery who find it necessary to buy with more care than farmers. The outlay to stock a farm is inevitatny large, and the returns in proportion to the capital invested are not by any means high.
The Requirements Summarized.
We have thus considered from almost all points the ecteat requirements of the English farmer, and, of course, I am not in this present article taking into account in any way the special stipulations which undoubtedly would be forthcoming from a Colonial agriculturist.
it may he useful to summarize the requirements which I have outlined thus: enflicient power ; ability to operate on heavy land and stiff gradients ; light tare weight ; suitability for small fields cheapness of operation; simplicity of control ; first cost.
Perhaps it will be useful in the present instance briefly to consider the various methods of ploughing hy machinery, and to see how far they fulfil the conditions which we have set down above.
Steam Ploughing by Cable.
First of all there is the old-eetablisned method of steam ploughing by cable. This weli-known system has been in use in all parts of the world for many years, and English mechanical engineers have had more than their share of orders for plant of this kind. It is, in the writer's opinion, still without rival for the very heavy-duty work which. is demanded when opening up new land, or for special deep ploughing. Having regard solely to the English farm, it will be
seen that this system makes no attempt to fulfil any of the other conditions which the writer regards as essential, and it is not, thereforeaemployed to any large extent for the average farm work of England.
With Oil-engined Haulage Plant.
Next we come to cal-dc ploughing by oil-en,gineed tractois. As now manufactured by a loading German agricultural firm, this system employs two singe:cylinder, horizontal, semi-Diesel oil engines with winding drums, and a very light balance plough. This plant is intended for the ordinary clam of farm work, and not for .specially-heavy duty. The writer has no accurate information as regards its powee. While being smaller than steam tackle, plant of this kind cannot be described as being particularly handy, when it is remembered that two engines and the plough, or other cultivating implement, have to be employed in the field. With regard to working costs, the consumption of oil should not he high, but as three men are required, the set cannot he considered as particularly economical in respect of costs. The initial outlay required is sufficient. to place such a eystem quite beyond the reach of the average farmer.
Steam Tractor-hauled Ploughs.
We next come to the method of direct ploughing by steam. A search through the annals of the Patent Office reveals many highly-ingenious, if somewhat weird, constructions for this purpose amongst the more ancient records. These, in almost all eases, consist of various structures embodying steam engines and boilers, and mounted upon wheels, either drawing ploughs behind them or carrying them with them_ Millet the weight and efficiency of such contrivances must have been, it is nowadays impossible, to guess, but it is quite certain that no satisfactory results could ever have been obtained from them. Many American and several English manufacturers, as a matter of fact, now advocate direct traction steam ploughing. In the writer's opinion, such a method can never come into general use in England, as it can never properly fulfil the first condition mentioned above, viz., that of sufficient power, and can meet none of the other requirements, all of which are as essential. The weight of the engine and gang plough is such that, except in perfectly dry weather, it would be very damaging to the condition of the soil to turn them on the land. The fact that the ploughs and engine are not self-contained makes turning in a small headland quite impossible, and so limits their use to very large fields.
Working costs are not high, unless the ground is sufficiently wet to make rolling resistance a big figure. Skilled control is, of course, required, and at least two men must be employed with the machine. The initial cost, although, of course, coneiderably lower than with the doubl'e-engine cable system, is still sufficiently high to prevent the use of this class of tackle becoming universal in this country.
The Oil-driven Tractor.
A variation of the last-mentioned class is direct traction by separate oil-engined machines. There is quite a number of these types nowadays on the mar, ket. It must be confessed that some are distinctly crude in design, and in meee than one ease accumulator ignition is retained. When one considers t aat, on account of unreliability, ignition by acetimulat irs was discarded years ago, except as an auxiliary, in pra,c_ ticaIly all motorcars, one cannot understand why the farmer, who usually has less mechanical knowledge than the motorist-, should be expected to obtain satisfaction by its use. On the other hand, there are many tractors of this kind which are undoubtedly of good construction, and which, from an engineer's point of view, would promise very satisfactory performances.
It will be seen that the inability of a tractor adequately to fulfil all the purely agricultural conditions obtaining on an English farm is inherent to the class, L.15
and is quite sufficient to account for the rather limited adoption of such machines by English farmers.
The Power that is Required.
With regard to power, tractors vary considerably. A safe guide is to allow 4 b.h.p. per furrow, plus b.h.p. for each ton of weight. In considering the weight, that of the gang plough should not be omitted. As an example, a tractor weighing two tons, and a four-furrow gang plough weighing 15 cwt. will require to develop 24 b.h.p. It will be seen wiiat a very important bearing the question of weight has upon power and, consequently, upon fuel consumption and working costs. Owing to their weight, most tractors are liable to be unworkable in wet weather, because of the rapid increase of roiling resistance ; as the ground becomes more sodden, and also owing to the weight's being distributed upon four wheels, the driving wheels are very liable to skid. With regard to the ability of a tractor to work in comparatively small fields, the same remarks, of course, apply to the oil tractor as they do to the direct-haulage steamers. The difficulty in turning when uncoupling or reversing is great, and the inability to " split " open on the first furrow when " ridging," or to " close " the last furrow when " casting,' is also an objection from the farmer's point of view. Working costs in the case of an engine of economical design can be accurately deduced from the figures already giver), presuming that the engine consumes three-quarters of a pint of petrol or benzole per b.h.p. per hour. A tractor of 24 h.h.p., weighing two tons and drawing a gang plough weighing 15 cwt., and ploughing 4 furrows at 2 m.p.h., will consume, 3 gallons per acre. This, of course, varies largely, but may be relied upon as a safe average. If paraffin were used, the quantity would he greater, but the price, of course, would be less.
Oil Tractor Costs.
Two men at least are required for an oil-tractor outfit, one for the tractor and one for the plough, and their combined wages would amount to about is. 6d. per acre. Depreciation, repairs, lubricating oils and sundries usually bring up the total cost per acre to about 75. or 85., according to the conditions. The initial cost of tractors, although not so high when one considers the work involved in their production, is yet sufficient to prevent the majority of English farmers from purchasing.
With regard to the self-contained motor plough, the writer feels that, owing to his own association with this particular class of design, comments upon this method would be out of place. Suffice it to say that, in his opinion, a self-contained. two-furrow plough, driven by a petrol or paraffin engine, can be and actually is constructed satisfactorily to fulfil all the conditions which have been outlined earlier in this present article.
The Sell-contained Motor Plough.
There is little difficulty in demonstrating that the self-contained small motor plough is par excellence the type for the English farmer, and if, as a test of its suitability, it be required to fulfil the conditions which we have enumerated, it will be found that it can do so to considerably greater effect than can cable haulage or direct haulage in any of their forms. The Wyles motor plough has been described fully in Tux COMMERCIAL MoTaF, and I cannot do better than refer my readers to such description in the present instance.